With the first week of play in the rearview mirror, the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays has proven to be a somewhat confounding team. While the win/loss record might not indicate what we should expect out of the team over the next 156 games, we have learned a little about the Rays in the previous week.
1. The Rays are fragile.
The Rays lead baseball in the number of players injured, with nine active players currently on the disabled list, some of which sustained injuries within the first three games of the season. These nine players account for more than a third of the payroll, per Marc Topkin.
Behind the link, Matt Silverman calls the situation "discouraging," while clarifying "but we're not discouraged."
2. A walk is a hit.
What do Jennings, Longoria, Forsythe and Souza have in common? They’ve been rewarded with a good number of walks (at least four each) thanks to their patience in the batter’s box.
Sure, walks make for boring baseball, unless your thing is confounding pitcher. However, a fair number of their 28 total runs are due in part to the ability to work a quality at-bat. Besides, I cannot recall another team that scored four runs in one week, all via the bases loaded walk.
At the time of writing, the team slashed a combined .214 BA/.321 OBP/.377/.698. OPS/.315 wOBA line with 48 hits, 27 walks and one hit by pitch. The current OBP leaders on the team are: David DeJesus, Brandon Guyer, and Kevin Kiermaier.
3. The Rays can pitch...except when they can’t.
Make no mistake, the combined 4.17 ERA and 3.45 FIP are not be pretty. However, 45 strikeouts and a 8.93 K/9 certainly are good omens. And while the pitching staff gave up five or more runs in three of the first six games, shutouts by Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer, combined with a quality start by Nathan Karns, illuminate what this pitching staff can do when it is healthy and firing on all cylinders.
4. This team is resilient.
Despite losing a couple of close games to the Orioles and Marlins, the Rays rallied in both contests to make things interesting. Moreover, they’ve shown a tendency to answer a team when it scores by adding to their own run total (see: the Rays performance in the Citrus Series).
5. A $70 million payroll is untenable (unless it isn’t).
Marc Topkin also reminded us on Sunday what we heard from the owner on the air in the opening series:
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the $70 millon-plus payroll is "an area beyond uncomfortable" and "puts us squarely in the red again.
We didn't address this at the time outside the comment section, but it's worth considering.
According to Forbes Magazine, the Rays are currently worth $625 million (up 29% from 2014 - also last in MLB), having also accrued an estimated $188 million in revenue (also up from 2014). I’m not here to debate whether the team is or isn’t in the red.
Although with an increase in both team value and revenue, fused with the specter of a greater increase in revenue once a new TV contract is settled, the overall perception seems a bit contradictory.
6. This is no longer Joe Maddon’s team.
Topkin further detailed a few below the radar, yet very interesting, moves made by the Rays’ new regime:
A new team dress code requires collared shirts or a jacket over a T-shirt on travel days and no sneakers. Among other new-regime changes: players on the field for the anthem, and batting practice for day games.
Interestingly enough, manager Kevin Cash left the decision of road-trip attire to a handful of player representatives, including (but not limited to) Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb.
If the players indeed had a part in opting for a more professional approach to things, I can’t help but wonder what their level of appreciation for Joe Maddon’s hijinks may have been.
What makes you #BeyondUncomfortable?
Editor's Note: Links courtesy of DR.
- David Laurila interviewed Rocco Baldelli on his new gig at first base. Also reflected in our interview with Rocco in the off-season, his position is now a coach, not a liaison from the front office.
- Know Thy Enemy: Eno Sarris on Michael Pineda's change up.
- Chris Mitchell followed his MLB Expansion criteria piece with a list of cities that could work on Friday. Territorial rights should get a heavier emphasis in this process, but I appreciate the research he's doing.
- Good lord, this leaping catch by George Springer to rob a grand slam.
- Bartolo Colon hit his sixth career RBI this weekend.
- Also fun, via Craig Calcaterra:
Padres 6, Giants 4: Wil Nieves hit a grand slam off of Jake Peavy as the Padres take three of four from the defending champs. Nieves' Made his big league debut in 2002 for the Padres, catching Jake Peavy. A few things have happened since then, I suppose.
- Finally, hats off to all who enjoyed our "MLB Teams as Game of Thrones characters" -- and shout out to Banished to the Pen for their nod at the idea. The show's fifth season kicked off last night, and we are pondering continued coverage which we hope you'll enjoy. Thanks for reading.